Productive vegetables for small plots

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Sweet Tatorman
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This subject may be an odd one for someone who has sufficient garden area to typically leave several thousand square feet fallow each season as I do. I note though that many here are gardening small areas and I wish to pass along my ideas of choices of vegetables that produce the most "value" in terms of displaced grocery expenditures. I encourage others to add their favorites to this thread. Some of my suggestions are dependent upon a long enough growing season to permit some degree of double cropping which will not be the situation of all folks here. In accordence with lathechucks sensible suggestion of providing climate context in plant discussions here is mine: I am in rural Northwest Georgia [US, not the European country] and in USDA plant hardiness zone 7b. Elevation 1000' [300m]. Typical freeze free growing season of ~210 days. Hot and humid summers. On to the vegetables:

Tomatoes. On almost every small plot gardeners must have. No need to elaborate.

Peppers: As above.

Lettuce and spinach. Can be planted early in season. Both require similar conditions and are good candidates for double cropping with something to be planted mid-Summer or later. If your Summers get hot early, lettuce and spinach may not do well as they are prone to bolting.

Bush green beans. Potentially very productive. Don't plant more than you are willing to pick at once. For me that is 10-15' of row. Delay planting until soil is warm. Typically they only yield well over a 1-2 month period so several plantings over the course of the season needed to have throughout the season. My favorite variety is "Roma". You may encounter "Roma II" which is essentially the same. This variety is very productive and maintains quality on the plant longer than most.

Pole green beans. If bending over to pick bush beans is difficult consider pole beans. Generally a single planting will yield thoughtout the season. Downsides are the need for a trellis for them to climb and the shading they cast on the North side [or South side for those down under]. My favorite pole bean variety is "Blue Lake". Note that there is also a "Blue Lake" bush variety but it's flavor is not as good as the pole variety.

Swiss chard: A must have for those that like cooked greens. Very productive. Can be planted early. It is a biennial that will over Winter in my climate zone though likely not where much colder. Unlike Kale which will produce thoughout the Winter, chard does not. It will regrow in the Spring and produce for several months before bolting. It is possible to extend the second year harvest by instead of picking individual leaves cutting all folage at once about an inch above ground level. New folage will grow from the remaining stump. This same method can be used in the first year of growth if you find the plants heavily bug eaten. Cut them down to a stump and the plant will go dormant until early Fall and they will regrow new folage after the bugs have died or moved on. My favorite variety is "Fordhook". Nothing else I've tried comes anywhere close in productivity.

Kale: Another must have for those that like cooked greens. Many varieties available and some are very cold hardy. Will put on new growth on warmer days throughout the Winter. Try several varieties to find those best adapted to your climate. I mostly grow "Dwarf Blue Scotch". Kale is a good candidate for planting mid-Summer or beyond to double crop with an earlier planting.

Leeks: A must have for me. They are more effort to grow than any of the above items. Direct seeding does not work. Start early [March for me] in a tray of potting mix and plant out into the garden 3-4 months later. Another good candidate for double cropping. Do not be alarmed by how tiny the seedlings are at 3-4 months. Often they will be no larger than the lead of a wooden pencil at this stage. Most of the growth will occur in the Wintertime. I typically dig the first ones in November and continue to mid-Spring. Once they start to bolt in the Spring they will become inedible due to toughness. Varieties I like are American Flag, King Sieg, and Bleu do Solaize with Bleu do Solaize my current favorite.

Malabar spinach: Good as a salad green or cooked green. It is a climbing vine usually grown on some form of trellis. Needs hot weather.

Herbs: whatever types suit you tastes and climate.

What are your high productivity/small plot favorites?

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Magpie
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Plants for southern NZ

Silverbeet (chard) is the go-to garden vegetable for many old-timers locally. It produces abundant greens, thrives with benign negligence, and has essentially no pests. Kale is also good. Spinach can do well, but needs a bit more babying.

One essential for me is garlic. Locally grown garlic (rather than Chinese) costs $2/head which really adds up if you use it. Because we get two crops per year (plant and harvest on the solstices), it is relatively space efficient for its monetary value. Herbs are also a good bet, though rosemary is basically a weed and you can probably find someone with too much if you try.

Broad beans are a must for me. I planted two crops, one in the fall and one in the spring. The fall crop starts flowering and setting beans several weeks before the spring-planted crop, extending the harvest from early spring through late summer. With ~10 plants in the back of the garden, we ate one to two full meals a week (for two) during broad bean season. The only issue was that, since it's so windy here, the fall-planted beans must be staked up or they'll be bowled over by the spring winds. Tomatoes, while delicious, are difficult to grow as we don't get the heat required to have them really thrive. When I had an unheated glasshouse, I could get them going right through to the winter solstice, though. Squash and pumpkins are a bit annoying, as I've had to hand-pollinate them due to lack of bees (NZ has very few species, and they aren't too interested in these plants), but they grow very well and take little care other than training the vine out of the valuable garden space and into the path/lawn.

marieann
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Plants for Southern Ontario

Tomatoes are a must, they grow so easily and, apart from the Hornworm, have few pests. I have seen a hornworm once but give them an afternoon and you could be tomatoless. I love the cherry tomatoes, they feed me all season.

Lettuce and spinach do well....but early in the season otherwise it gets too hot.

I also grow Broccoli,turnip,kholrabi and kale.....but they are attacked by the cabbage butterfly larve. I have tried changing the planting times, covering the plants with mesh,and moving the plants...the wee buggers are relentless. I now check the leaves often and kill the worms.

Pole beans grow like weeds I eat my fill and then freeze what's left. I can then eat them until January.

All kinds of peppers grow here but I just do green and red ones and mostly for freezing to use on pizza and a chicken recipe.

I don't have the space but Pumpkin and Squash do well, they are usually abundant at roadside stands.

I grow lots of herbs Oregano, Basil, Parsley, Sage, Mint, Thyme and Chives. They all thrive I dry them and use them all year.

We also have Rhubarb , Strawberries and Raspberries, we don't get a big crop but enough for a week or two of desserts.

I planted an elderberry bush a couple of years ago, it is now huge with a host of blossoms....it will be a battle between me and the birds to see who gets the most berries. Last year there were a few dozen berries and the birds scoffed the lot.

marieann

Sophie Gale
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Egyptian Walking Onions

I have had Egyptian Walking Onions for years.  They are hardy, they're perennials, they set themselves.  They're gnarly-looking and the old ones will make you think of triffads (?). They do flower, and the flowers attract small green flies.

http://www.egyptianwalkingonion.com/

topsets

Cassiodorus
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Herbs, Reportedly

Mel Bartholomew, of Square Foot Gardening fame, has taken a stab at this issue, trying to analyze which vegetables are most cost-effective to grow. His top answer was herbs. Here's a link to his book on the topic.

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ClareBroommaker
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One crop I really don't have

One crop I really don't have a feel for is onions, despite the fact that one year I counted 13 species of allium in my garden, not all of them grown for edibility.  There is the need to save bulbils, or seed, or to encourage bunching of the bulbs.  I need an better understanding of day length and storeability.  I know at least one gaden shop here sells onions that won't grow to full size  in our area.  They are basically good for greens and slightly larger than pearl onions.  For now, my best alliums are garlic, but I'd like something bigger with milder flavor.  I think I will work with potato onions, but did not do it this year.

Do you reproduce your leeks by letting them flower and seed?

Sweet Tatorman
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Alliums

Leeks are about the only allium that I have achieved much of a degree of mastery over. I can do OK with garlic, onions generally not.

>Do you reproduce your leeks by letting them flower and seed?<

I do save seed from leeks. As you likely know, they are a biennial. Generally in the Spring of their second year I dig up 6 or so of the best looking ones and transplant to a location that will be out of the way of the current years plantings. Unlike many plants, mature leek plants transplant well with a very high survival rate. Leeks are outcrossers so I only let one variety go to seed each year. Leeks will cross with some other alliums, mostly wild varieties of Allium ampeloprasum and also pearl onions. At room temperature leek seed only maintains good viability for a couple of years. This likely can be extended by freezing.

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ClareBroommaker
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Yes, I actually wrote, but

Yes, I actually wrote, but then deleted before posting, that one can grow out leeks purchased at a grocery store to flower and seed.  But then I realized I should not recommend that because I did not know how good the next generation leek would be.  I've only done this after planting grocery store leeks to get the big ornamental purple grey flower...not for a chunky bulb for eating.  Getting pollens mixed could be a problem for me, too, given the other alliums around my place.

Blueberry
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long day short day

Living in the South to grow a nice big sweet onion you plant sets in the fall and baby them thur the winter in the Spring lots of fertilizer and harvest  mid May. This would be something like a Granex or something like it. If in the North you would plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. This would be something like a walla walla, Onions like a Ph of 6.5 and lots of plant food. If you were growing commerical  using 10-10-10 for NPK would need 1000lbs per acre that is not a typo!!! If you are growing garlic or bunch onions and wanting high yields you are going to have to feed the soil. Composted cow manure is a wonderful thing for onions.  David

David

dtrammel
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How Much Yield On Beans?

I planted about 5-8 feet of beans along my fence a few years back, just a minor start, but my experience didn't yield much. I probably had enough beans to fill a quart jar, so I was left wondering how much planting you would need to fill the needs of a person.

What is your normal yield on that 10-15 feet?

AT
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Good yield

For my "Provider" bush type green beans, I planted about a 15 ft. double row last year.  They are always prolific, and with a double row we ate them all summer, I froze 16 bags (1.5 cups/bag), and had several more large bags left over.  You can can them as dilly beans in a water- bath canner, or pressure can them.  I have experimented with salting them down, but they weren't very nice.  I think I used beans that were too large.  This year I plan to try again.

I experimented last year with Taylor Horticultural beans, a bush-type shell bean that was a favorite from my childhood.  From about a 10 ft. row, I got a quart of dried beans and 3 pints of fresh beans for the freezer, plus one meal of fresh beans.  Not very impressive, but successful enough that I am growing twice as many this year. 

I do think that for a limited space, green beans give a lot of bang for the buck.  I am in New England--zone 5.  As with all legumes, the bean plants fix nitrogen in the soil, and the above-ground parts of the plant are great in the compost pile.

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ClareBroommaker
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Just "down the road" from

Just "down the road" from you, I have notes from 2015 about my Roma type pole beans.  The variety is called Helda (sometimes listed as Hilda).  I planted in May 150 seeds on 5 teepees with 80% germination.  July 15 I began harvesting.

This will be tedious, but here was my take by date and pounds

7-15   1.080

7-17   3.042

7-19   4.302 (this day we canned these plus those from 7-15 and got "15 pts with a lot left over" to quote my notes)

7-21   3.754

7-23    2.294

7-26   4.100

7-29   1.000

8-1   1.098

8-5   1.422

8-10   3.127

8-15    0.734  (This low yield was probably some days after heat made blossoms deformed and many blossoms sort of crumbled off the vine.  Happens every year.)

8-16   0.734  (ditto)

8-17 1.328

8-23 10.934  (woo-hoo!)

8-24   3.398

8-29    4.322

So what's that? About 45 pounds of beans from 150 X 0.80 = 120 seeds?  Or,  0.375 pounds per seed.  Hmm,that doesn't sound very good.  Anyway, we ate, canned, and fermented... plenty for two people.

I have no notes after this.  I think I probably ieft the remaining beans on the vine to save for seed.  However,  I find it better to dedicate some vines earlier in the summer soley for seed, so that we get enough seeds that are well formed, disease & bug free.  Later beans are lesser seed quality.  I love these green beans but there might be some that hold up to heat better.

I have one other year's notes on Helda beans, but they are in some other notebook

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ClareBroommaker
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2014 pole bean harvest

Found my other notebook.  Same beans, Helda, 2014, same number of teepees.  Harvest did not start until August 8, but continued until October 7.  Got a total of 82.88 lbs that year. So maybe  0.69 pounds per seed planted.

I prefer to pick from pole beans, but bush beans will bear fruit sooner from planting. If I were organized, I'd do a few bush beans early so I'd be eating them sooner before the pole beans come in.

Roma type green beans are really hearty beans, with enough substance that they feel like a substantial meal (or part of a meal). I think I prefer a more tender bean for fermenting.  The Blue Lake that  Sweet Tatorman grows would be a good feremented bean.

Sweet Tatorman
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Guessing amount

I haven't rigorously tracked amount harvested. As a guess, I'd say 10' of row of bush beans [full sun, good soil fertility] would yield ~5 lbs over 2 months and pole beans ~7-8 lbs.

Cathy McGuire
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thanks for the list

Thanks for the list! I'm in a totally different climate (Willamette Valley, OR) and I confess that my "list" is heavily influenced by what's on sale in the nurseries... I plant beans, peas and lettuce by seed, but many of the others are transplants.

 

Lettuce and Cabbage - doing well this year!

Garlic

g

Potatoes

Tomatoes

I still don't have the hang of photos here... but these are obviously small areas and I'll get plenty of food from them! The wintered over kale bed is already done and I'm planting some late tomatoes, basil and peppers there. I forgot to photo the beets and carrots bed, but it's not quite as flourishing, for some reason.

dtrammel
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Very Nice Cathy

Your beds look as bushy and full as mine are now (pictures to come soon).

And don't worry, I worked a little magic on your pictures too.

Cathy McGuire
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thanks for that

Thanks for the shifting - for some reason Blogger puts them sideways no matter how I save them... Wink

Sweet Tatorman
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Nice photos

Willamette Valley: nice place! Never lived there myself but my father is descended from a mass migration of a Quaker community from Nebraska to the Willamette valley. George Fox college [an early Quaker] in Newberg is a legacy of that migration. Newberg is the birthplace of my father.

Cathy McGuire
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not too far from me

That's not too far from me - I've been to Newberg once or twice. I hadn't heard how the town came to be. Thanks for the info.